World News: Autonomous cars take challenge to Toyota Grand Prix


Boss, a Chevy Tahoe engineered by Carnegie Mellon University students and faculty, won the DARPA Urban Challenge last year. Junior, a Volkswagen Passat modified by Stanford University students finished second, and Ben, a Toyota Prius from the University of Pennsylvania and Lehigh University students and faculty finished sixth.

The DARPA competition aims to help integrate car safety and robotics towards the US military's goal of operating one-third of its vehicles without drivers by the year 2015. More than thirty teams entered the DARPA Urban Challenge, including teams from Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Berlin, Germany.

The Urban Challenge featured fully autonomous vehicles, with neither driver nor remote control, competing on a 60-mile course through traffic in less than six hours. Vehicles had to obey traffic laws while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections, and avoiding obstacles.

During the Challenge, Boss averaged 14 mph, slightly faster than Junior's 13.7 mph, although both did reach speeds of more than 30 mph.

All three vehicles are equipped with an impressive array of electronic equipment options, such as a Velodyne HD Lidar that looks in every direction ten times per second, combining 64 individual lasers into millions of 3D points at up to 65 metres.

At noon on April 20th, these three driverless vehicles will take part in an exhibition that will be part of the Green Power Prix-View, which highlights futuristic alternative-energy vehicles.

Each of the three cars will attempt to successfully circumnavigate the 1.97 mile, 11-turn Grand Prix circuit at a fixed speed.

"It will be fun to watch these vehicles go around our course," commented Chris Esslinger, director of communications for Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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